AndinismoQuito, Spring 2011

When it comes to geography, Ecuador really has it all--Galápagos, coast, sierra, the Amazon--all squeezed into a country the size of Nebraska. But although the coast and the Amazon are beautiful (and probably the Galápagos too--I´ll tell you in a month), the mountains here (actually mostly volcanos) are really all that I need. This weekend I went on an outing with the university´s club de andinismo, or mountain climbing club, to Quilotoa, the most gorgeous volcanic lake I have ever seen. We trekked 4 hours around the rugged rocky crags overlooking the bright emerald waters far below, and then took a crazy non-path down a straight wall of shrubs and sand (and some crops--oops! Felt bad about sliding down some indigenous farmer´s hard work, but I was following a bunch of crazy Ecuadorians, so it´s okay, right?) to arrive at the shore of the pristine lake. We then hiked another hour straight back up the cliff (this time on the real path), slipping our way through sand and horse poop to arrive back where we started from, with a glorious view of the surrounding valleys. The entire region is a patchwork plateau of indigenous farms, making for a quiet, pleasantly pastoral atmosphere. I´m extremely excited to go on next weekend´s mountain climbing adventure, whatever it will be (we decide during Thursday night meetings). Not only are there hundreds of snow-capped, well-over 14,000 feet peaks to explore, but the club is made up of incredibly cool, active, athletic people. And they´re not only Ecuadorian university students (although the students I met were very friendly and energetic): I met a spirited art professor with bright orange hair, two older avid mountaineers from Chile, and a few exchange students from Spain. All in all a really great group of people. I´ll be sure to let you know what sorts of hiking and adventuring we get up to next weekend.
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